Gauge is a size reference. When referring to size of a needle, a finer gauge needle is one with a smaller diameter. Needles used for different activities receive different identifying numbers, so a fine gauge needle in medicine is referred to by larger numbers, while a fine gauge needle in sewing is referred to by smaller numbers. Sometimes, gauge does not even refer to needles at all, but to a method of measuring the size of a thing--as in knitting.
Fine gauge needles are increasingly used for a variety of medical procedures, as the needle points are smaller and lead to less pain and discomfort. In the medical field, the title "fine gauge" refers to any needle in the higher spectrum of gauge numbers, anywhere from gauges 19 and above. The higher the number, the smaller the needle. Specialists use these to perform biopsies, aspirations and for diabetic glucose testing, just a few among many other medical procedures using these tools.
Gauge in knitting refers to the "number of stitches and rows in a given area of knitting," according to the Red Cross Knitting Guide. This is not the same thing as needle size, which refers to the diameter of the needle. Knitting gauge determines how many stitches per row and how many rows per square inch of intended fabric you need in order to produce the right amount of finished knitting.
The gauge of needles used in sewing is measured by the diameter of the shaft of the needle directly above the eye. The numbering system of needles uses both the European size (from 60 to 120) followed by the American size (from 8 to 19). The larger the number, the larger the needle. Seamstresses need different needles for different fabrics, stitches and threads. Each sewing machine is calibrated to use a different average size needle. You can determine this average size by reading your machine's manual.
You are at a greater risk of injury when using finger gauge needles, as their particularly sharp points pierce skin and fabric easily. Always store sewing needles in an enclosed container. Only use syringes and fine gauge diabetic-use needles once to minimise risk of infection at the piercing site. Always throw away old needles immediately or place in a biohazard box out of reach of small children and animals.
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